A Clydesdale's Journey | Budweiser Super Bowl 2022

A Clydesdale's Journey | Budweiser Super Bowl 2022 Credit: Budweiser

A funny thing happened on the way to Super Bowl LVI.

The commercials got funnier.

Or at least they got sunnier.

They undeniably got better.

Advertisers told us to get back on the road, or to buy cryptocurrency (does one "buy" crypto?). They insisted that electric cars are here to stay and that the Budweiser Clydesdale is, too. We learned what celebrities do with their downtime, which is obviously line up to star in Super Bowl commercials.

Humor was big in this biggest of forums, but so was diversity. There were Black "brand ambassadors" for over half a dozen products and Black cast members in most commercials too. Mary J. Blige had two prominent roles, as Hologic spokeswoman and halftime performer.

Surprises? There was one ("The Sopranos") or two (Larry David) or three (Tommy Lee Jones, for Tundra.) Each good.

The E-Trade baby returned, and he's still a baby. That Coinbase ad blew a few minds, or blew up the internet. Barbie starred in her first Super Bowl ad as well (Rocket Mortgage). Weirdly, the Manning brothers were in four commercials: Lays, Michelob, Stella Artois and Caesars Playbook, with J.B. Smoove. Missing anything? Oh right, that wild halftime house ad for the NFL.

So make that five. Just Imagine how many ads Tom Brady will be in next year.

There were quirky cameos, like Willie Nelson for Skechers or Dolly Parton for T-Mobile. Quirkier still, Ryan Reynolds was upside down for Mint Mobile and Joe Namath right-side up for DraftKings. Then, there were those occasional ads for our Brave New World, like that one for Cue, the "smart" COVID home testing device. (Voiced by Gal Gadot, it didn't get around to price — $249).

So while the country remains bitterly divided and the pandemic carries on, Sunday's advertisers together decided to channel that old chestnut from the Five Stairsteps:

"Oooh, child, things are gonna get brighter …"

Let's hope they're right.

The best:

1. BUDWEISER: A CLYDESDALE'S JOURNEY

Director Chloée Zhao has a feel for the boundless west (2020's "Nomadland") and the boundless spirit of the west (2017's "The Rider") but by casting at least one (presumably) American Indian in this beautiful commercial — quite possibly a first for the Bud-dale series — she's made the payoff inclusive. "In the home of the brave, down never means out" thus takes on a whole new powerful meaning.

2. "SOPRANOS"/ELECTRIC SILVERADO

This surprise drop could cut a couple ways, depending on one's devotion to either "The Sopranos" or Silverados. But Robert Iler and Jericho's Jamie-Lynn Sigler were far and away the best celebrity appearances of the entire night in this commercial, which re-created the HBO series' iconic opening sequence (with Sigler at the wheel instead of James Gandolfini).

3. FTX/DON'T MISS OUT

Surprises are always nice, and this one with Larry David was the best surprise of the night. Best because we never really learned what FTX is — crypto, but also cryptic — and therefore the whole ad played like some bizarro episode of "Curb Yor Enthusiasm." Larry, as always, made himself the punchline of the whole joke: "I'm never wrong about this stuff. Never."

4. BMW/ZEUS AND HERA

"Zeus and Hera" is almost a meta-commentary on the career of a former California governor because perhaps Ahnuld is also now retired in Palm Springs and annoyed by all the other retirees who keep asking him to say "I'll be back …" In this one, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as Zeus, married to Hera (Salma Hayek), and really annoyed. Then he and Hera head down Palm Canyon Drive to Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" in that nice electric car. Hasta la vista, baby.

5. TURKISH AIRLINES/PANGAEA

What Morgan Freeman never allows viewers to do is to ponder the obvious (why is an airline from Turkey advertising in the Super Bowl anyway?), but instead remind them why air travel was once actually fun, before the days of assaultive passengers and endangered attendants.

6. GM/DR. EVIL

GM's Dr. Evil" had the single best line of any commercial Sunday night, or at least the extended version did. Mike Myers, reprising Dr. Evil: "I'm sorry. Am I no longer Dr. Evil now? I'm Dr. Good? I didn't get the meem-o."

7. SQUARESPACE/SALLY'S SEASHELLS

Zendaya in Squarespace's "Sally's Seashells."

Zendaya in Squarespace's "Sally's Seashells." Credit: Squarespace

Of all the Super Bowl ads that aired Sunday night, none were as upbeat, or alliterative, as this one starring Zendaya who sold seashells by the seashore and became so successful that she became a seaside sensation by the time the sun set — into which, she sailed.

And the worst:

1. ALEXA MIND READER

Not merely insufferable, "Alexa Mind Reader" was also chilling. Big Brother has become Big Sister and Big Sister is watching, or listening to Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson (with morning breath). This creeper effectively paraphrased a famous line from "1984." If you want a picture of the future, just imagine … Amazon.

2. HELLMANN'S MAYO TACKLES FOOD WASTE

Why does Hellmann's even need to advertise? Think Hellmann's, think mayonnaise. We don't need a reminder. But at least this reminded everyone why CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has become an NFL health crisis.

3. IRISH SPRING

Wasn't ethnic stereotyping something the culture used to do? Isn't ethnic stereotyping something the culture has decided is no longer acceptable? Couldn't this ad for Irish Spring have thrown in a leprechaun or two just to make this wearisome exercise in ethnic stereotyping even dumber?

4. UBER DON'T EATS

Jennifer Coolidge in the Uber Eats 2022 Super Bowl spot.

Jennifer Coolidge in the Uber Eats 2022 Super Bowl spot. Credit: AP

Certainly the most repulsive ad of the night, the Uber Eats ad team didn't seem to realize that people are actually eating during the Super Bowl. Easily the worst use of celebrities Sunday night.

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